Heroes of the Dark

Larry, Frank, and Gris
Surface Thoughts

Griswald the merchant from Silverymoon continued to exalt their good fortune as the trio rounded the bend out of the city and started to two mile ascent toward the World Above.  He couldn't get over the payload they were carrying with them.  "Can you imagine what we're going to make out of this, boys?" he asked.

Frank, the beholder, scratched at his third eyestalk with the grooming tool he guided from his mouth and his primary stalk.  Through his broken common, he intoned in a deep, resonating voice, "Are you sure you shouldn't just take the money and run?"

The bugbear clapped him on the back and chuckled.

"Don't touch me, Larry," the beholder warned.

"Aw, c'mon, I was agreeing with you," Larry replied.  "Don't be a fret."

It was Gris who broke the tepid silence.  "If they are willing to send us up with this much treasure, do you honestly think they can't find it?"  He thought a moment, and the thought chilled him.  "Any idea what they would do to us?"  He shook his head. "No, boys, this is the tip of the iceberg.  You'll see!"

"Or the edge of it," the beholder replied.


The rest of the journey was strangely silent.

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The Scream
Like a Waking Dream, Part 1

Teth laid back in his bunk to think about the affairs of the past twenty or so hours.  The purple plumes over the great Spire played over the city, signaling night in the World Above.  He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but the nightmare images that played through his mind erupted forward again, and he found himself meditating instead.

It had started with a persisting dream that unsettled Dyan'ette.  The Eldest Son had developed a sort of nervous tick in the form of night terrors.  He kept them to himself because the dreams were the stuff men were sacrificed for—killing his matron.

Over and over again, thoughts turned to plans, turned to images racing through his mind, but thus far he had managed to resist.  It was the first time he realized he had blood on his blade and muddy boots that something was actually happening.  But what could he do?

Du'rann, the lizardfolk shaman that had invoked Lloth in a series of sick and twisted rituals, cutting the heads off of several serpents and tying them to a stick to symbolize a Llothian whip.  Then she saw fit in her broken memories of the City of Spiders to purify the entire city from its sickness.

Starting with her son.

It was her magic that had reawakened his dreams.  She had, after all, spent at least twenty years dominating her own son and beating him into submission when magic failed, until he felt intense pain at the slightest thought of betraying or even upsetting her—and so she had reached out from beyond the grave and through a mile of rock to torment him.

Du'rann had been Diann, the matron of House Sel'rue, but now, defeated and reincarnated as one of the lizardfolk she had been introduced to a following of escaped slaves and naturally rose to rule them.   In her broken dreams and thoughts, they saw these people as fellow faithful followers, and worked to reclaim their city, together.

Killing, using Dyan'ette, seemed the easiest endeavor.

Teth rolled over a got himself some tea.  He reached for a mushroom cake and found himself holding a bloody severed ear.  Dropping it suddenly with a sharp intake of breath, he watched as the mushroom cake fell harmless to the ground.  Was this a normal reaction to a psychic surgery? he thought to himself.

After the tea, Teth remembered that he had given Dyan'ette one powerful suggestion, to "forgot those who used magic to dominate his will and damage him for their amusement, and for a time he worried that this might make Dyan'ette forget him, too.  The ritual had not been without its losses.

All he could do now, was wait.

And hope.

The next time he dreamed, it was Teth, not Dyan'ette, who dreamed of a man standing over a defenseless woman and slaying her.  It was going to be a rough recovery.  Meanwhile, two people slept peacefully in their rooms in the Tower Firth, unaware of the pain in another man's dreams.

And in his hands.

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The mad musings of a lost girl

It’s funny, life. They taught me to write like a trained monkey to show off at dinner parties, but they never knew it’d keep me sane. They taught me to fight because it was a novelty and the men were bored, but they never knew it’d eventually help me to escape. They made me live with the animals, but they never knew it taught me how to avoid having their children when they raped me. My rescuers told me the man I sacrificed was t “the one”. Oh poor things…. they were all “the one”. Irony.

My grand escape was essentially so simple. I really didn’t want to die, but I was ready to. Instead I found my people. It’s strange to me how much this place feels like home, in it’s dark beauty. The surface people don’t understand this world, it’s apparent. I wanted to be killed by someone with a face like mine, so I threw myself down before that woman, only to be delivered into luxury I’ve never seen before. There’s something they aren’t telling me. For people in power, they certainly don’t know how to school their faces. 

I don’t know what’s ahead for me, but I’m starting to remember things from my childhood. A cruel mother, a terrifying yet wondrous goddess, a world full of strength, courage, and beauty. Perhaps one has to die a little to finally live. Time will tell. For now I trust none. I may never. 

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Personal and secret journals of Aunrae Sel'rue - 6
Deceits, Successes, Trials

I am regularly surprised when something I have painstakingly careful in planning, actually comes together. Perhaps it is to do with the fact I am so used to our mother taking credit for what we do. Not only are we not dead, but we are thriving. I must admit though, that Lolth must have seen it to be that way, as had you asked me just a fortnight hence, I would have not been nearly so confident about our chances.

That is not to say that we are not still in danger, but what is success in Menzoberranzan without the risk. I would be a fool to think that everything is perfectly placed, we have enemies on every side, and even more that would see us simply out of the way for their progress. That is always be unchanged, but for now at least Banrae has other battles to fight, and we do their bidding. 

We sew the seeds of our plans in the hearts and minds of the houses that will listen, which is why we send our brothers to woo them. They want the blood of blademasters and they shall have them, but they will not take our blood from our halls. There is nothing they can give us that will replace the favor that Lolth has shown us. 

Then with the return of a sister I am filled with unease. This girl, this poor excuse for a drow that has not even a grasp of our tongue and no connection to our people at all… she comes to us, in a way that it must have been intended… but to what end? Is it for our favor or our destruction? Only time will tell, which is why we call on one old enough to know her, and see her story true. I would see her tested to be sure she cannot supplant us, that is the most important part of any of this. If she has no connection to magic, then she is no threat and can be used. Blade master blood flows in her veins as well. 

These things only hold a candle to the dread that grows inside me at the thought that our mother still lives… and in the body of a lizard woman… The thought alone is enough to make me retch. She would have seen me, my child, my sister, my brothers all dead for nothing more than being better at this game than she. This creature cannot go on in her name, wether it is she or not. …Though I do find poetic justice in the idea that if she is brought back, that she lives on in that horrid form… It is the only part of it that does not move me to any more than laughter. 


Should we find a way, I would give her death to Dyan'ette, he suffered at her hands, he could not touch her as drow, but he can destroy her now. If it is her at all…

 

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Hunting
When your Matron wants watermelon...

The city streets stretched out before the cloaked warrior as he strode through the marketplace. Dyan’ette continued to pace the markets and search for this clue and that.

Meanwhile, a figure silently followed, keeping track of his movements.

Dyan’ette paused at a fruit stand and questioned the human slave selling wares what he was selling. He dutifully reported five kinds of melon. None of them apparently were made with “water.”

“Musk?” he questioned, and the slave had simply shrugged. Obviously. He would never have been given one of his own. That would be a waste of good produce. Unless they were being rewarded, slaves ate mushrooms and rothe, and little else. There were laws, and a pecking order to follow, after all.

THe silent figure paused. They grew closer, and watched from the shadows of the crowd. At one point, Dyan’ette half turned, perhaps noticing eyes that lingered too long, and the figure crept back into the shadows. Satisfied, Dyan’ette returned to his bargaining.

Slowly creeping forward.

Dyan’ette counted out the thirty pieces of silver for his purchase.

Creeping…

He reached into hsi pouches and made room for the small culinary delight.

So very close now. He slowly released a blade and raised it to the drow warrior’s neck.

His eyes flew open with panic as the blade sinked deep into his back, just below the base of his skull. His eyes widened, and he tried to scream, but no sound issued forth. The slave gasped in terror and stumbled back into his shop.

Dyan’ette spun around in time to see the assassin fall, knife clattering to the ground. “You should learn to be more careful,” Teth admonished slowly. “You never know what you will run into out here in the Commons.”

Dyan’ette nodded and returned his attention to the slave, He turned again toward Teth and added, “Find out—”

“—-where he’s from, House, etc., etc., I know the drill,” Teth said blithely. “You people…” and he went at once to work. As expected, no house symbol, nor identifying marks. This would be a job for the Sisters.

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Personal and secret journals of Aunrae Sel'rue - 5
Not all is as it appears.

There are forty hatchlings in my stables. Forty. One would think that would fill me with glee… but all I feel is apprehension. These things, these monsters that would threaten our home, are nothing more than children with voracious appetites, and minds made up about things they cannot understand or know. So, I have just enough time to convince these beasts that they cannot worship the son of Loth in this city, or face the consequences that suggest we implanted this information in their tiny heads. They are not Drow, which means so long as they obey the law that says while they are in Menzoberranzan they do not worship other gods… the houses should be appeased. I would honestly prefer them convinced of her superiority, but I don't know that we have that kind of time. 

Add to this the fact that their mother insists on them molting with her… we have to convince the council to send their prized pets away to molt and hope that they do not break the law. Perhaps in forty years we can have settled with Q'Xorlorin. It would be safer should that dragon attack us for breaking her word. Perhaps that is where I should apply myself, in establishing a presence there, to protect us from what happens here. To protect us from the conniving and deceit that led our own mother to betray us. This is what it is to be a house in Menzoberranzan, and I would not change it, but I would protect my daughter from it, for as long as I can.

The tasks before us, at least have grown more simple, we only need to establish ourselves as a trading power, hand off blasphemous dragonlings without having fingers pointed to us, raise an army of our own in less than six months to protect the house from attacks, and sell the flesh of our brothers for the sake of building strong ties with other houses while the rest of our flesh trade takes off. A small task, I'm sure. Then there is Maya, the prodigy that we have taken as sister. She could serve to be an asset, or an undoing. Keeping her from court would be most simple, though it is not likely that it will work as she's already made a name for herself. She longs for her family, which means that it will fall to us to find them now that the dragons are handled. Oh, and we have to dig into the deep dark for a swath of treasure. likely alone so that we can take what it is we want from it. 

I will say one thing, it is most likely that we will need to leave someone capable in our stead, as we will protect our house by being away from it, as least until the children are born. Knowing that Maya is … good… at heart, she is the most likely choice, we can use her honesty as a tool and set her in the position of Castilian for lack of a better term. Hopefully, she will serve as a deterrent for spies and those that mean to attack us. We will see in time, for now though it is my aim to be the most kind to her, as it will color her favor towards us. That at least is something that we are capable of.

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A Stirring Darkness

The goblins piled together at the base of the water, washing their garments in the nude.  It was unnoticed that one of them dipped into the water to bathe himself.  It was forbidden, but rules were broken often when the overseers were not in attendance.

Muck slid through the water toward the bottom of the deepest rift.  There, in the dark, he found what he was looking for.  The fish were eagerly pulling at her flesh.  An eye drifted without from its socket, and her hair danced like serpents in the current.

The wand sparked out toward her, and her dead form began to writhe.  Her eyes flew open, and she began to breathe, choking on the water as her skin began to bubble away and new muscles began to grow.  Shiny scales began to protrude from her skin as she writhes in terrible, wracking pains beyond death.

What rose from the water was lizardfolk, but as the naked form was taken back to the slave quarter, it said only one word, and it said it many times.  "Mother.."

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Personal and secret journals of Aunrae Sel'rue - 4
Matricide makes two.

This isn't the way I anticipated that things would go. I assumed that Valan'rae and I would have time to establish ourselves, build power… but no. She, our matron, decided that we'd embarrassed her. She planned to have us sacrificed, to Lloth… who's favor we've been shown to have many times. She lost her mind. 

The joke was on her, we were prepared. So was she to an extent. Zincarla are powerful, but only if their maker survives. She wasn't expecting that we would switch our tactics. She wasn't expecting that we would co-opt her forces, or her sons. 

I should be ecstatic because we won. We are matrons of our house.  Instead I am exhausted and jumping at every threat or cross look. I know that the paranoia comes with the daughter that I bare… the only daughter of house Selrue now. 

Now, we only have a dragon, Trielle Baenre, and all of Menzoberranzan to contend with. Apparently, dragon first. 

 

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Treason, then....

Mother locked the children in the barracks, and then began to sacrifice them in order from youngest to oldest.  The party acted quickly, and rousted several dead from their long slumber after fleeing to the catacombs.

The guards for their part went to their rooms to wait, and see whether there were about to be a change in management.  Undead, drow, and magic make for a pitched battle in the best circumstances.

See the source image

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Breath Weapons in Caves
"Come on Rover Boy, Let's Go Hunting!"

The war party met to discuss their intentions.

Daughters of Sel'rue dedicated themselves to the creature's destruction, and mitigated the risk to the city by determining the battle take place in the ruins of El'Varad, the ancient outpost taken up by the former first house in the first days of the city, while the massive caverns that would be Menzoberranzan were still being cleared.

The entrances and exits leave little chance for survival if the dragon traps them inside.  There is only one way in and out.

Haerinvureem

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